Movies and television do an excellent job at painting college as the experience of your lifetime, a time when parties, late-night pizza runs and a packed social schedule are all a student has to worry about.
Maybe that’s why, when I was a freshman, I was a bit underwhelmed with what college had to offer. My roommates weren’t as friendly as the movies said they would be. My dorm room wasn’t air-conditioned. Everyone seemed to have found their group of friends right away, while I was still missing my high school group.
Although I finally found my niche and ended up enjoying my four years at school, my freshman year experience wasn’t unique. Every year, there are thousands of freshman out there who feel the same sense of disappointment I did, and who struggle to transition from high school to college and from the comforts of home to a dorm room and cafeteria food.
If you’re preparing to send your son or daughter off to college this year, here are some tips as to how to offer them the support they might need to get through those first few months.
I was very lucky to have gone to school not more than a half hour away from my paternal grandparents, which was a benefit anytime I was feeling a little homesick. There were plenty of times I opted to visit them for dinner instead of stomaching mediocre cafeteria food. It was a taste of home in more ways than one. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of having family nearby, so homesickness isn’t always as curable. Whether your son or daughter opted to go to school five hours away or five miles down the road, make sure you make a point to visit them every now and then. Taking them to dinner or even offering to take them shopping for the day can be a great escape from campus, and they’ll appreciate that you spent the one-on-one time with them.
I didn’t get much mail at school, and neither did most of my peers, which isn’t out of the ordinary for most college students. The only people who had my college mailing address were close friends and family, and I talked to them so often that if they were mailing me something that required my attention, I knew to be on the lookout.
But halfway through my freshman year, I began to find some surprise envelopes with my mom’s looped cursive on it waiting for me on a random day. She hadn’t told me to expect anything and sometimes weeks would go by without me realizing it was there. But when I finally opened my mail slot on a whim, it was always a nice surprise to see a card congratulating me on my latest good grade, consoling me after a disagreement with a suite mate or just letting me know she was thinking of me. Those cards always seemed to cheer me up, because they were unexpected and reminded me of my support system at home. Text messages and Facebook correspondence are great, but nothing beats a handwritten letter or card.
Sometimes that letter from home is all your son or daughter might need to make it through the week, but another option is sending a care package from home. Over four years, I knew to expect a box of goodies from home during the weeks I spent cramming for finals. It was a nice reminder that, although I was aiming to get good grades, it was important to take a break every once in awhile. Plus, I knew my family was thinking of me.
You don’t have to think of anything over the top. Bake some cookies or pick up their favorite candy and send a bag their way. Add in some goodies from local drugstores, like some new nail polish, their favorite magazine, or a new CD or DVD you know they’ve been eyeing up. It goes a long way in helping relieve some of that finals-induced stress.